Brent Caprio entered this college football season behind not one but two other quarterbacks at The College of William and Mary.

The Mainland Regional High School graduate contended for the starting job in the preseason but was slotted as the third-string QB behind senior Mike Callahan and junior transfer Mike Paulus.

It seemed unlikely Caprio would get much playing time, let alone get a chance to start.

However, Caprio could make his first collegiate start today when the Tribe (6-2), who are ranked fifth in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll, play at No. 8 New Hampshire (5-3) in a Colonial Athletic Association matchup at noon.

Callahan and Paulus both suffered shoulder injuries in a 21-17 loss to North Carolina, a Football Bowl Subdivision school, last week.

"I think our quarterback coach (David Corley Jr.) does a good job preparing us all throughout the season. He wants us all to prepare like we're the starter," Caprio, 20, said by phone Wednesday. "We understand opposing defenses even if we're not playing. The preparation has been no different. I am very excited for opportunity."

The 6-foot-1, 221-pound redshirt freshman has thrown just two collegiate passes, including a Hail Mary pass intercepted in the final seconds of last week's game.

But he says he feels ready and thinks the preseason competition helped him prepare for this opportunity.

"I think that has brought out the best in all three of us," he said. "It pushed me to work a little harder in the summer and work a little harder in preseason camp. It has been good for our team."

Caprio, the 2008 Press Player of the Year, led Mainland to a Group IV state championship as a senior that year. He completed 140-of-223 passes for a school-record 2,065 yards and 27 touchdowns that season.

He finished his career as the Mustangs' all-time leading passer with 4,298 career yards and 46 passing touchdowns. He also had 1,888 career rushing yards and 42 rushing touchdowns.

Caprio, who turned 20 on Thursday, showed football observers in southern New Jersey what he could do on the ground, but that may not be part of the Tribe's game plan this weekend.

"He's a very smart quarterback," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "He knows the stuff in the meetings, knows the stuff in film study. He just hasn't gotten out there and gotten the snaps. He's handled himself well. He can throw. He can do the things you necessarily need to do, but he just doesn't have any game experience whatsoever."

Caprio has received calls from his former Mainland coaches when they heard about his chance to start. He also heard from a few of his friends who were excited for him.

His parents, Mark and Brenda, who watched him all throughout high school, will be in New Hampshire to see him in action.

But even though those he's close to are giddy, Caprio has tried to stay calm. While he practices almost every day, he still has had to go to classes.

"School kind of keeps my head on straight," Caprio said. "Over the last eight or nine weeks, I've stayed in a regular routine and that has kept me calm and ready."

Laycock said he has been pleased with how Caprio has handled himself with the other quarterbacks and in meetings.

Now he wants to see what Caprio can do in a game.

"(Caprio) has been pretty good at signaling (in plays)," Laycock said. "If you count that work, he's been pretty busy. If you count under the center and things like that, he hasn't gotten a whole lot of snaps."

Caprio knew right after the UNC game there was a chance he was going to start. Corley went up to him afterward and told him to be ready to work this week.

Caprio didn't get nervous then. He never got nervous in high school, either.

"Hopefully, it will stay the same," he said.

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